PSG has been most famous for winning the French Ligue like it’s a habit and signing expensive players like it’s a, well, habit. One of their, or perhaps their biggest player for the last few years has been Neymar. The French club signed the Brazilian for a record-shattering fee of €222 million, activating his buyout clause in an act that was thought to be as extinct as the dinosaurs. It was more than double Paul Pogba’s record transfer fee paid by Man United which was €105 million. Now, with Neymar’s position at the club in question with the Brazilian expressing desires to leave and the matter of Adrian Rabiot also having left, PSG seems to be in a bit of a tough spot in the competition. Neymar’s leave seems all the more likely now that clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid are swimming like sharks in a feeding frenzy to lure Neymar back into the La Liga.
PSG lost just their 2nd game of the League against Rennes and as a result, dropped to 8th on the table. They are currently sitting on 4th having won their most recent game against Toulouse in a 4-0 thrashing. While they seem to have come back from 8th, that loss indicated a lot. There can be a lot of weaknesses to exploit in a Neymar-less PSG because of how versatile he was with his goals and assists. Despite being on the club’s roster, Neymar has not donned the PSG jersey for a single one of the league games. While Cavani, Di Maria, and Kylian Mbappe are great players, Neymar has been critical in matches he has played in, scoring or assisting in almost every single match.
Loss of Neymar’s Skills and Numbers:
Neymar has been incredible in his PSG run. He scored 51 goals in 58 matches in all competitions for Paris. The Brazilian also has a high assist tally and had 13 assists in 2017-18 alone (only in French League) despite playing only 20 matches. He has been great for them in the UEFA Champions League as well, scoring 11 goals and 5 assists in just 13 UCL matches across the two seasons. Even though PSG never lifted the trophy, they surely had a lot to look forward to in the UCL thanks to Neymar’s exploits. Neymar’s dribbling is among the best in the world. His passing and shooting both have been phenomenal under both Barca and PSG so Paris will definitely have to figure out a way to bring those skills and numbers in their matches to come. A lot of the plays were set around Neymar and his aptitude so it will be difficult to change things up for Paris. Neymar is an integral part of PSG’s playstyle and they have to adapt significantly, especially in the UCL, to get desired results.
Pablo Sarabia and PSG’s damage control efforts:
Thomas Tuchel’s situation is far from envious but he’s still trying to do the best he can as is evident from the changes. With Neymar’s absence, Mbappe has been pushed to a more central role in the squad and the case has been similar for other attackers like Di Maria and Cavani as well. Julian Draxler has been put in a more aggressive role as well. The strategy worked towards the end of the 2018-19 season. Draxler had an impressive 3 goals and 7 assists run. Cavani scored 18 goals while Mbappe did a lot of heavy lifting, scoring 33 goals and 7 assists as well. Di Maria racked up 11 assists.
Last but not least, Pablo Sarabia from Sevilla has been an important addition to the squad. He has been brought in seemingly to fill the void left by Neymar and while he hasn’t dazzled, the jury is far from decided. He was exceptional in the La Liga 2018-19 season. He had a whopping 13 assist and 12 goals with a passing accuracy of 85%. He is very versatile and can play attacking midfielder as well as the winger position. He even maintained 2.1 key passes over the course of 33 games, enabling him to rack up those assists. While he is yet to do anything substantial in the French League, he still has maintained a high passing accuracy of 87%. Given the season he had in the La Liga, great things are expected of him.
Neymar has been terrific as mentioned earlier, in the UCL. PSG will have to manage without Neymar possibly in the UCL. They have Sarabia who has some UCL experience but will have to punch above his weight class to improve PSG’s UCL history. And it’s not just him. Other players like Mbappe, Cavani and Di Maria will all have to give 110% at the very least for PSG to be effective in the UEFA Champions League without Neymar, who had 16 goal contributions in 13 matches(Champions League). Mbappe will have to play as incredibly as he did when France won the World Cup, possibly better. The same goes for the other attackers as mentioned.
In conclusion, Neymar’s potential exclusion from the squad will be difficult to overcome. PSG has some fantastic, world-class players and they will have to step it up tenfold in order to bring the same level of panache and intensity that Neymar did for them. It’s not impossible but it will be overwhelmingly difficult to change the tide.